Ruby-golden on the outside and crimson-red, inclining to deep purple, on the inside, blood oranges are very special citrus fruits with tasting notes of tart raspberry and black currant. A product of natural mutation, thriving on the volcanic soils of Sicily, blood oranges acquire their maroon color from antioxidant pigments, beneficial to human health. Alas, for long periods of time in different countries people considered these precious golden orbs to be menacing defective siblings of the regular sweet oranges, and often threw them away. Thankfully, in our day and time we know better.
As opposed to Navel, Valencia, and Cara-Cara varieties, following one another for months, and therefore omnipresent all year round, blood oranges aren’t always available. Their short season ends in May, and so does the special seasonal Italian Blood Orange Sea Salt Scrub at The Nob Hill Spa at The Scarlet Huntington Hotel in San Francisco.
I indulged in this invigorating spa treatment that combines full body scrub and massage with the super-powerful mix of citrus elements – and the experience left me enlivened and energized; my skin as smooth as orange blossom petals.
Speaking of orange blossom, this is a main ingredient in the bright citrus blend used for the scrub, which also includes tangy juice and sharp spicy rinds of blood oranges, and zesty grapefruit that helps stimulate, revitalize and nourish the skin. Like spring sunlight, this amazing citrus blend uplifts the spirit and awakens the body. In addition to the scrub, blood orange lotion and blood orange body wash are used in the course of the treatment, which ends with a cup of blood orange tea graciously delivered by your massage therapist.
The Scarlet Huntington is the only hotel in San Francisco with a full-service spa, boasting unobstructed city skyline views from a private outdoor terrace, especially desirable on sunny spring days. The Nob Hill Spa, designed by a spa visionary Sylvia Sepielli, and reviewed by a feng shui professional, is a tranquil sanctuary inside the iconic San Francisco hotel perched atop the city’s posh Nob Hill. Since 2000, the spa has been a popular hideaway for bachelorette parties, birthdays, baby showers, client meetings, and techy retreats, offering global healing traditions interwoven with customized services. The three-level facility has ten treatment rooms, a large indoor infinity pool, a fireplace, Zen relaxation room, eucalyptus steam room, dry saunas, whirlpool and a workout room. It accommodates individuals and groups, and is open not only to the hotel guests, but to the general public as well. Not surprisingly, it continues to be a staycation destination for locals seeking an urban escape and the premier spa experience.Recently, the hotel introduced another unique feature – a style-forward gathering retreat – the Spa Suite. It’s an intimate venue for up to 15 people, with the main space for convening, a separate treatment room with two massage tables, and bathroom with a rain shower, a vanity mirror and a double sink. Designed for hosting a range of formal and informal parties, the Spa Suite, staffed by Nob Hill Spa therapists, offers massages, facials and body and nail treatments. Catering is provided by Big 4 Restaurant in the meeting room buffet-style or à la carte.
While the just introduced Spa Suite is still on my “to experience” list, the Big 4 Restaurant, led by the Executive Chef Kevin Scott is the place I’ll be happy to return to – for an elegant dinner, excellent service, and a slice of California history.
A San Francisco institution, the Big 4 Restaurant on the ground floor of The Scarlet Huntington Hotel, is named after the 19th century businessmen, philanthropists, and most distinguished and talked about citizens of the city who built the Central Pacific Railroad – C. P. Huntington, Charles Crocker, Mark Hopkins and Leland Stanford. These men’s life journeys from California pioneer beginnings to national importance coincided with a long and colorful era of Pacific Coast history. At the top of their careers, the “Big Four” all resided in the exquisite Nob Hill mansions, and almost daily were featured in the local press in references to their varied activities. The Big 4 Restaurant’s ambiance recaptures the era of the Big Four with opulently decorated dining room, period furnishings, antique artifacts, and celebrated original dark wood bar – a hub of the bourbon and whiskey revival.
Nearly obsessed with all things citrus by dinner time, I started my lavish meal at the Big 4 with Bitter Delight – a blood orange-colored cocktail made of Campari, Combier, fresh grapefruit, and prosecco. It was followed by seared foie gras (thank you, California, for bringing this delicacy back!) garnished with mache, port cherries, toasted pistachios and brioche.
Perfectly grilled Berkshire pork chop came with a side of roasted root vegetables in cider sauce.
For dessert, I ordered the seasonal panna cotta Milano with Campari gelee, shortbread cookie, and of course, a slice of candied orange.Owned and managed by Singapore-based hospitality group Grace International, the renovated and reimagined Scarlet Huntington seamlessly unites tradition and contemporary style with a distinct blend of refinement, relaxation and pure luxury.
The red brick façade, the cable cars passing by, and the famed illuminated sign atop the hotel remain the historical references unchanged with time, as well as the structure, the original woodwork and crown moldings in the hallways, and the 1924 gold leaf ceiling in the former Mr. Huntington’s apartment.
However, new Singapore Straits Chinese-inspired interior design elements and a provocative use of color are present in all 134 spacious rooms – a fusion of classic grace and global influences that stirs the imagination.The four room types – Superior, Deluxe, Executive and Premium, 34 one-bedroom suites, and three signature suites – Opulent, Passion and Mulholland, delight visitors with a sense of elegance and brightness. Our one-bedroom suite was positively vibrant with the abundance of natural light, avant-garde furnishings, plush pillows, heavy two-tone curtains, and crystal chandeliers.
I appreciated double-pane windows that opened for fresh Pacific air, as well as central air conditioning.
In our quiet bedroom, high above the hustle and bustle of the city, an elaborate gilded headboard, snow-white bedding, and pillow-top mattress promised undisturbed night sleep.
Lavish bathroom amenities included soft robes, a deluxe rain shower, hand-carved vanity, a lighted mirror, and L’Occitane bath products.As Gail Isono, The Scarlett Huntington General Manager put it, “The fusion of different cultures is part of what makes San Francisco so alive; that spirit is on bold display at The Scarlet Huntington. As a new generation discovers the vibrancy of the city and the mystique of Nob Hill, the hotel is experiencing a renaissance as an intimate home away from home, where elegant tradition meets modern comfort.”
The hotel’s positioning grants easy access to the city’s famed cable cars and a short walk to Union Square, Financial District, Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Ferry Building.
The concierge desk is open from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily to help guests discover the charms of San Francisco. The Italian Blood Orange Sea Salt Scrub lasts 50 minutes and is $140. The Spa Suite is available for small groups by reservation only from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. daily. Big 4 is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Room service is available for guests from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. from the restaurant.The Scarlet Huntington is located at 1075 California St., San Francisco, CA 94108; 415-474-5400; www.thescarlethotels.com/sf.